Doing battle with daily dragons

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Cats and The Crunchy Piece of Paper

The Rock Star had a gig last night in Ealing at an Irish pub called The Spinning Wheel. I try to go to gigs whenever I can, despite the smoky nature of English Pubs in general. (This is my hugest pet peeve ever. Don’t get me started. Just support The Ban.) I worried when he first joined that I might look like a rather sad groupie, clinging desperately to the vestiges of my 20’s, following around a semi-pro covers band for my own desperate and perverse reasons. But it’s actually Quality Time with The Rock Star as well as a good laugh with the rest of the guys (no offence to The Girl, of course) so anyone who thinks the former of me can spin on it. I know he likes to see me out there in the crowd, bopping around to the music he’s making, so, continue to bop I shall.

Everyone has their own sort of magnetism. People can instinctively sense things about you just by looking; that you’re in love with yourself, that you have hang ups, that you’re looking for a fight, etc. In my personal experience, what people tend to sense from me is that, no matter how obnoxious, drunk, insipid or socially inept they are, if they feel inclined to start a conversation with me, I will politely nod and smile and feign an interest in whatever conversational vomit they chose to spew into my lap, because my parents taught me that it’s easier to be kind than unkind. I’m beginning to believe that that might not necessarily be true, but I know that I will adhere regardless, because I am, at heart, a huge dork.My favorite analogy for this condition is that, if you put one piece of paper in the middle of a football field and released a cat onto the pitch, the cat would instinctively go directly to, and sit on that crunchy piece of paper. I AM that Crunchy Piece of Paper for all manner of drunks, divvies and dickheads.

This is, I swear, an honest- to- god conversation that I had in an extreme Crunchy Piece of Paper Moment last night. The scene: The Spinning Wheel. Myself and The Child (The Hairy One’s significant other who is WAY younger than me) were literally the ONLY people sitting at tables in the whole establishment. A whole room full of empty chairs beckoned to the inebriated 40-something gentleman who’d just weaved his way over from the bar. Which chair do you think he parked in?

The Prat: Hi.

Me:Hi.

The Prat: (pointing at the Band, who are setting up. There are amps, guitars, a drum kit and a keyboard on the stage.) So what’s going on here then?

Me: They’re a band. They’re going to play music.

The Prat: (winking unpleasantly) You’re not…

Paula Abdul: (loudly, from the speakers above my head) “STRAIGHT UP NOW TELL ME TO YOU REALLY WANNA LOVE ME FOREVER. ( oh oh oh )…”

Me: I’m sorry?

The Prat: You’re not English.

Me: No.

The Prat: Where’re you from then? (This is one of the classic Crunchy Piece of Paper Questions. I am different and exotic to CPOP people.)

Me: America. Maryland, on the east coast, near Washington DC. (Most CPOP people are impaired by either ignorance or alcohol, so it’s good to say where Maryland is before they ask you if it’s anywhere near California.)

The Prat: (pointing at The Child) She sounds American too.

The Child: I haven’t said anything.

The Prat: My brother’s moving to Florida.

Me: (trying to draw fire from The Child. I think she’s a Crunchy Piece of Paper too, but hasn't had quite as much experience, so she tends to get the deer in the headlights thing going on.) It’s nice there.

The Prat: Do you think…

Paula Abdul: “…NOW TELL ME IS IT GONNA BE YOU AND ME FOREVER
( oh oh oh )”…

Me: I’m sorry?

The Prat: Do you think he’ll do well there? I mean, better than he does here?

Me: Um…what does he do?

The Prat: He runs a restaurant.

Me: Well, people in Florida eat too, so I suppose so.

The Prat: He lives in Plymouth, so he’ll be leaving just like the Pilgrim Fathers.

Me: I think they landed in Massachusetts.

The Prat: (completely changing the subject and pointing at the band) What kind of music do they play?

Me: Rock covers from the 60’s onward.

The Prat: Do they play any…

Paula Abdul: “I’VE BEEN A FOOL BEFORE WOULDN’T LIKE TO GET MY LOVE CAUGHT IN THE SLAMMIN DOOR HOW ABOUT SOME INFORMATION PLEASE…STRAIGHT UP NOW TELL ME DO YOU REALLY WANNA LOVE ME FOREVER (oh oh oh) OR AM I CAUGHT IN A…”

The Prat: ...Clinton?

Me: I’m sorry, I didn’t catch most of that. You mean George Clinton? The funk guy with the dreadlocks? I don’t think they know any of his stuff.

The Prat: No, Bill Clinton.

Me: The president? Did he write songs too?

The Prat: No, what do you think of him?

Me: Sorry, I was silly enough to think that we were still talking about music. He’s okay, I guess.

The Prat: What do you think of the guy that’s in now?

Me: (There are two things that my parents taught me never to bring up with a stranger unless I was spoiling for a fight: Religion and Politics. Likewise any stranger who does this to me earns an immediate conversational Red Card.) Um…I’m not really a fan, no.

The Prat: How about the Kennedys?

Me: What about them?

The Prat: What do you think of them?

Me: Well, they’re all dead.

The Prat: Unlucky.

Me: Yeah, all being dead is pretty unlucky.

The Prat: (raising his Guinness) Let’s have a toast to Jackie Kennedy. (He rams his pint into my stationary water glass, spilling it on my trousers.) To Jackie.

Me: Indeed.

The Prat then rises from his chair and leaves as abruptly as he came. This is a classic Crunchy Piece of Paper exchange for me. I am convinced, however, that I am not alone. I'm sure there are some of you out there who read this, nodding your heads in grim solidarity. Embrace your Crunchy Piece of Paperdom, my brothers and sisters, for we shall be rewarded for our patiently borne out martyrdom, in this life or the next.